Sorry, the Slave Girl is Not the High School Student

Slave GirlThis meme is blowing up my newsfeed. The reason is obvious to me.

First, I’m sure you’ve heard about the incident in South Carolina involving a high school female who refused to turn off her cell phone. The situation escalated into a rough take-down from a corrections officer who was called in to resolve it. Much of the encounter was captured on tape; and now that recording has gone viral.

After hearing opinions on both sides, a meme has begun to circulate comparing this young high school student with the proverbial “slave girl”. The meme is written in order make an obscure, tired point on race. And it’s a real shame that the writer has to go all the way *there* with his concept in an attempt to garner our favor. Go ahead and read it; then, ask yourself where is he seeking to take you with this presentation?

This classic manipulation attempt is driven by his prompting of the shared tragic image of a collective American experience. He wants you to blend the image of a freshly beaten slave girl into the image you have in your minds of the obstinate, high school student. How are the two girls related other than skin color? Those girls are separated by more than just time, laws and societal norms. They are separated by *realities*. So, do not follow his lead. Instead, choose to honor each separate moment (the HS girl and the slave girl) by seeing each of them individually.

Although this author is physically living in this moment with us, you can see that his mind is planted, in fact, rooted back in the time of slavery. We should believe him when he shares where his mind is stuck. But we don’t have to follow him when he invites us to go back there with him.

It’s a bit offensive to see this writer minimize the collective national triumph we’ve shared over slavery by blending it into an issue of teenage rebellion and an ugly take-down of a corrections officer. The two issues he seeks to connect are not related in the slightest way. Yet, his perception has gone viral.

The tactic is the introduction of deception and confusion. He has pressed the emotional buttons stained in our minds around slavery and injustice. That action affects our rational assessment of an individual situation involving a high school student and a corrections officer. Do you want to align your thinking based on deception or confusion? Certainly not.

Remember “who is the author of confusion”.

Choose to align your thinking with reason and logic. #MemeRejected

Lesson Learned!

Ok everyone, the crisis has been averted. The correction officer who forcibly removed a disruptive, disrespectful student from a group learning environment just lost his job. Whew! The big, bad, white guy has been “dealt with”!
Now…. are we ready to deal with the obstinate attitude that led us down this path in the first place? Do the other kids in the classroom have a right to an education without it being interrupted by an insubordinate, uninterested student? Should we teach our children that their bad choices could lead to a crazy outcome that they won’t be able to control?
Nah… because she was black and he was white. And she was a little baby girl with a pink parasol… and he was a big, bad brute with fangs! All she wanted to do was play with her phone. Sheezzzz….
No! All she wanted to do was… whatever she wanted to do! That’s the problem! She is a child who is supposed to be getting a “free” education; doing what she is told to do to make the learning process successful for everyone.
So parents here is your moment to shine.
Are you going to tell your children that they can punch a correction officer without any consequence?
Or, are you going to tell them to respect the people whom you have empowered in their assigned positions of authority?
Are you going to tell them, “In a civilized, functional society, when you fail to do what you are told to do by a teacher, and you decide to punch a person, you will be physically removed from the room so that class can resume for everyone else.”
You should also tell them, “When you are removed, you will not be able to control how that removal unfolds. It may hurt! That’s why you shouldn’t go down that path! You are in control of the path that you choose.”
Hypothetical Me: What can YOU control, little Johnny?
Johnny: Myself.
Hypothetical Me: Good Boy.
*Galactic Parenting Star Awarded*

Do you WANT to see Racism?

Have you seen the not-so-new social experiment video on racism by PrankNation?
If not, watch it here:
What are your initial thoughts?
I think it’s easy to see racism in this video. In fact, they WANT you to see it.
And if you want to see racism in this video… you will. But this isn’t racism. This is one girl who didn’t want to give her money to someone, and then later made a different choice with someone else.We all know that a lot goes into a decision when someone asks you for money at a bus stop. For one, the second guy had a conversation with the girl before asking her for money. He made a connection first, and that connection would play a big role in my decision if I were asked. What if she was attracted to the second guy and wanted to help him for that reason alone? I don’t begrudge her for trying to prolong her interaction with a man she liked, and neither should you.Still another idea is that she may have felt bad about choosing not to help the first guy, and then saw the second man as a second chance at showing kindness to another human being. When I think of her in this way, I see this encounter in a completely different light, and my world is still at peace. We have no way of knowing the truth, so why not choose to “see” her and the situation in the way that makes your world beautiful?

But back to the implied racism for a moment… I can see why people want to use this as a declarative video that says “YES, Racism Exists!” Ok. So what if it does exist in that random woman’s life. And? How does she have any power over you? I don’t think the people in this video are even in America, let alone your town. So, this doesn’t have to define your life at all. It’s HER experience. SHE is choosing not to give a random man some change. By defining your world by her actions, you are giving her way too much power in your life. She didn’t reject you. She rejected him. And who cares if she did… life goes on.

My newsfeed is full of people posting this video, and I am actually glad to see it. I think it is a perfect illustration of how we create the world we live in. Each moment of your life is full of unique factors. It cheapens our individual experiences to screen all social interactions through a color-based filter and say, “Every ‘no’ in life means racism.” Because it’s just not true.

Yet some people are choosing to be affected negatively by this video.

So, to my friends who are “feeling sad” here’s a thought…. What if this entire thing is staged? It’s possible, I mean it’s made by a team of people who specialize in pranking the public. Why are we just trusting this dude on the parameters of his “shocking experiment”. The girl in this video could be an actor, playing along for the camera. She could be dating the first guy for all we know. Think about that. You are potentially letting a staged performance create the rules of your world. You have decided, based solely on how this scene was presented, that you need to be on guard against girls who won’t share their money at bus stops. Or on the other hand, you have decided to ALWAYS give out your money when asked so that you aren’t labeled “racist”.

If that is the route you take, understand that your decision is based completely on the melanin levels in your skin. This is a decision you have made in the hopes that one day we won’t have to think about the melanin levels in our skin. What? No. We don’t take steps backward in order to move forward.

How about we just make that choice now? How about we just see people as ‘people’. It’s her money. She can choose who she wants to give it to, and she can choose the ‘why’ behind her decision.

Let’s create the world we want… right now.
Don’t give your power away to a random girl at a bus stop.

Are a Bunch of Butts Really Taking Over the World?

My children were playing tag; running with glee through every inch of the house. I love hearing the sound of fun and happiness.

In the middle of all of the squealing and laughing, Cayden suddenly stopped and calmly said,
“Ok. I have had enough fun with this game. I’m moving on to other things.”
And with that, the game was over.

I took one look at Connor’s face and I couldn’t help the chuckle that bubbled up from my heart. We smiled at each other, and just shook our heads together with a “knowing” gaze. That was Cayden, and we loved her.

Our shared moment was interrupted by her question.
“Why did you laugh, Mommy?” Cayden was confused.

“Oh, sweetie…” I answered. “I laughed because I just love how you are completely comfortable speaking your mind. That’s really a beautiful thing.”

She smiled, satisfied with my answer, and started to walk away.

But now, Connor was puzzled.
“Do you love it when I speak my mind, Mommy?” he asked.

“Of course I do, son.”

“Well actually,” he said, changing his tone. “I don’t ever speak my mind. I speak the truth, and they are not the same things.”

Moved by the intellectual level of this exchange, I agreed with my six-year-old genius.
“You are absolutely right. The truth, and what is in your mind, are not necessarily the same things. Wow, son. That is really deep.”

“Yeah. So that’s why I don’t speak my mind. I speak the truth.” he repeated.

I was hoping he’d continue, but he chose silence instead. He had nothing more to say on the matter.
I watched him. No, I stared at him in awe as he put his toy in its place on the shelf. He is so wise, and I get to be his mom.
The feeling kept growing inside of my heart until it was overwhelming. So, I opened my mouth to give him another compliment, but I was interrupted by the sound of my daughter’s voice.

“Wait mom. He doesn’t speak his mind, he speaks the truth. What does that mean?” she asked.

Encouraged by Connor’s example, and fully expecting equivalent brilliance to come out of my mouth, I started to answer her.
“You see, our brains are full of many random, wonderful, creative thoughts. And some of those thoughts are not real in this world.”

“But what does that mean?” she asked, sending my response back to the beginning.

“Well…” I started again. “If I imagine that the world is suddenly being taken over by…”
“…by a bunch of butts!” Connor shouted, exposing yet another layer of his 6-year-old wisdom.

“Yeah,” I said smiling and lifting my arms to add emphasis to the story. “If I imagine in my mind that the entire world around us is being taken over…”

“…by a bunch of butts!” Connor interrupted again, with a burst of laughter.
“…a bunch of butts!” Cayden repeated.
The laughter was contagious.

“Yes kids, butts,” I said, with as much maturity as I could muster. “Close your eyes, and let your brain show you all of the butts that are taking over the world. Can you see them? Can you see the butts?”

There was a moment of silence and then we all burst out with laughter.

“Too many butts!” Connor hollered, rolling onto the floor.
“Butts!” Cayden repeated, just to say the word.
“Butts!” Connor shouted again for good measure.

“Ok!” I finally caught my breath. “You can see the butts, and they are taking over the whole world, right?”
“Yes.” they answered in unison through closed eyes, big grins, and deep breaths.

“See what your imagination can do? Your mind can create amazing pictures and events. But is it the truth? Are a bunch of butts really taking over the world?”
We looked at each other for a moment and then started laughing again.

They were laughing at all of the butts that they could still see in their minds.
I was laughing at the urge to blow my whole point with an ironic, political twist.

“Well?” I asked through giggles. “Are butts taking over the world?” (Yes!)
“No,” Cayden answered, holding her tummy from the muscle burn. “Butts are not taking over the world. That’s silly.”

I looked over towards my son who was still trying to recover from the laugh-fest. “Connor? Are they taking over the world?”

“No,” Connor answered, “No they aren’t.”
After a deep breath, he turned to his sister and continued,
“So Cayden, if we chose to speak what is on our minds right now, we would not be speaking the truth. See Cayden? Do you see how they aren’t the same thing?”

“Yes. I see,” she answered with apparent understanding.

“So, that’s what I meant. I don’t speak my mind, I speak the truth,” he said, putting a period on his point.

In an effort towards closure (or just to end with a bit of sophistication) I got their attention again and said,
“Kids, I love how you both use your inventive minds. What we just shared together was so beautiful. Remember, you can always share your imagination with me because I love every bit of your creativity.”

I paused for emphasis and then continued with even more passion,
“Connor and Cayden, outside of ‘play’, I absolutely LOVE how you speak the truth. You are truthful people, and that is precious to me.”

We smiled at one another, absorbing the emotion in the air.

I intentionally made solid eye contact with each child moving from Connor’s eyes to Cayden’s, and then back to Connor’s again.
Our smiles grew stronger with each shared second, and the silence in the room was a warm hug over the moment.

Then, Connor turned to his sister, smiled really big and shouted, “Butts!”
And they both fell out laughing at the “sophistication” of it all.

The Chair and the Sponge Sharing Project

I want to tell you about a sentimental potato-based sourdough yeast sponge.

But first I need to tell you about a chair…

IMG_0030

Like most girls, when I was little I had a miniature doll set. Most of the pieces were correct to scale, but I did have a few random pieces that were too big for the “world”. One of those random pieces, was a small grey living room chair. It was purchased separately and was too big to really fit into the fantasy, but I loved the markings on it, and I smiled each time I looked at it. So no matter what anyone else said, it stayed in the set, and we played and played.

Time went on, and I grew up, eventually giving away different parts of the doll set until it was basically gone. It’s funny how I ended up keeping the “odd” pieces, though. And of course I kept the chair. It was thrown into a box marked “special things” and over the next few years, it was moved around in the basement of my parent’s house. That chair became one of those possessions you forget about until a day comes when you open a box and suddenly you are flooded with beautiful memories from your past. And that would have happened to me someday in the future, but my brother had a different idea.

One night, my brother and his wife invited all of the family members over to their new home for dinner. So, from different parts of the state, we all made our way up to his home, bringing our assigned dishes and gifts for the impromptu house warming. Sitting down for dinner, I was admiring the decor when my eyes caught the trinkets on the center piece of the dining room table. Placed among a bunch of random items was my little grey living room chair. As if he was watching me, waiting for me to see it, my brother spoke through a wide eyed grin, “You see your chair there, Carole?”

Feeling a bit confused as the memories of playing with that chair started rushing back into my head, I answered, “Well, yes. That’s my chair. What is it doing here?”

He said, “Well, I know how much you liked that chair.”

Thinking of how many times, as a young girl I had told him not to touch that chair, I said, “Yeah. So what is it doing here?”

He continued, “I remember many times playing with you and those toys. Do you remember when I wanted to use that chair for my batman action figure?”

Re-living that moment, I answered, “Yeah. And I said, ‘Absolut-’”

“You said, ‘Absolutely not!”” He had interrupted my dramatic point. “You were serious about that chair!” he said, smiling at me. Then, he looked over to his wife and said, “You wouldn’t believe how serious she was about that chair!”

She smiled, and I could tell that she had heard this story before.

He started passing the food around the table, so I took this moment to really study the center piece. I noticed a bottle cap, a key, a hair barrette, a match box car and a few other items that together could all be found in any kitchen junk drawer. But there was an order to the placement in the center of his dining room table.

The questions came bubbling out before I could think to hide my judgement, “What is this about? How did you get my chair, and why is it in the center of the table?”

Still smiling, he said, “Well, I’ve had the chair for a while. I found it in a box when you went off to college.”

I corrected him, “You mean you went through my personal things and decided to take whatever you wanted since I was ‘off to college?’”

His smile started to fade, “Well, you were gone, and the chair reminded me of you.”

Missing the deeper point, I continued throwing words at him from my place of righteousness. “I didn’t give you permission to go through my things, Ben.”

“I know.” he answered looking down. “But the chair reminded me of you. I know it’s your chair. It still is your chair.”

“How is it my chair when you took it and made it your own? I didn’t even know you had it all this time!”

There was a long moment of silence while I tried to find a way to forgive the obvious thievery so that we could still have a nice dinner. I took a deep breath, and leaned over to try to grab my chair from the rest of the trinkets.

My brother, without raising his head said softly, “I knew how much it meant to you, Carole. That’s why I kept it all these years. It felt like a part of you was with me, even though you were away.”

I slowly pulled my arm back to my body and sat down in my seat.

He raised his head, and went on to explain in more detail. “See, all of these items belong to people I love. Normally they are kept in a box, or a drawer. Each time I’d randomly come across them, I’d stop and think of the owners of these items and I’d smile, or I’d say a prayer for them, or I’d pick up the phone and call to check on them.”

He had moved passed my rebuke, and was lost in the feelings and memories the trinkets were bringing back to him. The smile returned to his face as he said, “And now they are all here as the center piece of our dining room table where I can look at them, and honor them.”

The excitement in his voice was growing as he explained a little more about each item. He picked up a few trinkets and told us about the friends connected to them. “… but they aren’t MY items.” he said, adamantly. “They still belong to each person.”

That’s the part I didn’t understand. He had my chair all this time, but it was somehow still mine? He must have read my face, because he quickly answered my thoughts, “So, if you want your chair back Carole, you can take it. But I’d like to keep it here, in my home, as a reminder to you more than me.”

“What do you mean, ‘a reminder to me?’” I asked completely confused.

He picked it up, and looked at me with an expression only my baby brother could give me.

“Well,” he said, “no matter where you go, I want you to remember that you will always have a chair in my home.”

I can still see his face as he held up the chair, waiting for my reaction to his loving joke. And after he passed away, I took the chair back into my possession as a reminder of that gesture. After all,  he said it was still my chair. And now it represented a special connection that I never want to forget.

This brings me to the potato-based sourdough yeast sponge.

IMG_0006A yeast sponge is a bubble-filled mix of flour, water and yeast used as the starter for baking many types of rich tasting breads.

The year my brother passed away (a few weeks before, as a matter of fact) I made my first yeast sponge to be used for all the festive baking of the Christmas holiday. I had studied and learned as much as a person could learn through Google and websites, and I was finally ready to try it out. I made my sourdough sponge with a potato base because I love the sweeter taste of potato bread.

Over time, the sponge aged, developing a richer, more sour flavor. When that happened, I’d refresh the sponge with a new potato base. I already know what you’re thinking, “But that defeats the point of a sourdough sponge.” And maybe you’re right. But this “potato refresh” practice was perfect for the type of bread I wanted to create and enjoy.

And with every refresh, I was able to give part of the sponge away to friends and family, who in turn gave part of theirs away to friends and family. After a while, that sponge was spread out across the country, shared in so many homes of the people I loved.

The idea behind this “sponge sharing” was the connection it created between all of us. It was right up my brother’s alley to share something like this with the special people in my life. And he was so excited the first time I presented each member of our family with the message of “connection” through their own jar of my potato-based yeast sponge.

“So remember,” I said with a Ben-like grin on my face, “No matter where you are when you sit down to eat this bread, we are all connected. It will be like we’re breaking bread together!”

The corniness was almost too much to take. But my family loves the corn. And we all laughed and smiled at the thought of breaking bread “together” even though we’d physically be apart.

After Ben passed, I kept that sponge going. Each time I refreshed it, I took special care not to kill it because it represented more than a yeast sponge to me. It was connected to that last Christmas with my brother. It was his “chair” in my home. And that sponge survived for several years.

But last December, we moved our entire family to Minnesota in the middle of the worst recorded winter in 30 years. During that move, I accidentally lost the sponge. It was one tough moment when that reality set in. So, I decided to stop making bread completely, and try out a new hobby.

For over six months I tried not to think about that sponge. I didn’t want to ask my mother or sister if they were still using theirs. I just wanted to forget the whole thing. But the idea of it was too special. So, when summer came to Minnesota, I decided to start fresh, and together with my children we planted potatoes. The idea behind the effort was to use some of the harvested potatoes to make a new sponge. I thought, it could be a “Minnesota Fresh Start” sponge.

I started to feel better, and with that new feeling came the ability to talk about it. One day, the kids were on the phone with their grandparents discussing their abundant potato harvest, when the inevitable question came up, “What are you going to do with all those potatoes?”

We had committed some of the harvest to fries, and some to chips. And in the pause that followed that declaration, I couldn’t help but say, “I also plan to use a few to make a new potato sponge.”

My mother-in-law said, “Oh, like the one you gave me a few years ago?”

It still kind of hurt to think about it, so I answered her reluctantly, “Yes, like the one I gave to you a few years ago.”

I wanted to change the subject, but she quickly said, “You know, I still have mine. It’s right there in the back of my refrigerator.”

Did I hear her correctly? She still had the sponge? That meant the connection was still alive! What? It was too wonderful to believe, so it couldn’t be true. But it was true. She had the sponge, and she gladly gave it back to me so that I could make that connection again.

And that brings us to today.

IMG_0026Today, full of too much emotion to quantify, I baked a loaf of bread using a blend of our “Minnesota Fresh Start” sponge, and the sponge directly connected to the bread my brother ate with me that last Christmas we spent together.

I can’t describe to you how it felt to take that first, warm bite.

The steam was rising from the loaf, carrying with it that unmistakeable smell connected to so many memories of holidays at home with my family.

I thought of my brother Ben, and that little chair he kept with him to “keep me close” for all of those years.

I thought of all of the people who were a part of the sponge sharing project we started together so long ago. In a strange way, I was thankful that I had lost the first sponge. Without that loss, I might never have made a “Fresh Start.”

And I thought of the value of keeping a real connection alive between you and the people you love.

I closed my eyes to savor the taste, and I could see my brother’s big smile across his wonderful face.

And I smiled… grateful for this moment.

It’s Thanksgiving…. But, I Didn’t Pick My Family!

For many years, I lived my life trying to emotionally “separate” myself from certain family members. When I’d think of them, I’d say to myself, “Ya know, I didn’t *choose* for them to be in my life… But I did *choose* my friends. So, I am going to go hang with them – I’m out!”

That thought was a door that I would walk through whenever family members would do something that ticked me off. I’d say, “I didn’t choose y’all – I’m out!” It was a seed that took root and grew into a hedge that separated me from the painful emotional lessons that came with some family members. That phrase, “I didn’t choose them” was very powerful.

So what happened? And how does this relate to Thanksgiving?

The other day, I was faced with whether or not I should spend this “last” Thanksgiving with certain family members… and I answered in my very practiced phrase, “Nah…. I didn’t choose them.” And God answered, “But I did.”

I was floored!

Yep… no matter what you think of your family… each person is connected to you through your creator. Whatever you are to learn – be it patience, kindness, forgiveness – maybe that lesson can only be taught through a face that resembles your own, or a voice that sounds like your mother’s voice. For some of life’s lessons, maybe you could only be reached through eyes that are a genetic match to the very eyes you use every day.

The lesson I take away is that God chose these connections. So, whatever the connection, there is perfection in it. If my connection includes grief or conflict, I need to look for the perfection, and then remove the rest as confusion.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family. And I am ready to learn the lessons that only THEY can teach me.

I didn’t choose them…. God did.
Happy Thanksgiving!